Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best Wishes for the Coming Year

Wishing you and yours all the very best in 2010.  -Jamie

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Random Guys: Mistletoe, a Six-Pack and Christmas Balls

If you love this guy, be sure to check out Noble Works Cards.  They have some of the funniest (and sexiest) cards available anywhere.  Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"I Know Him So Well" from Chess.

This is my favortie musical in this history of the world and I have been waiting since 1984 to hear two men sing this song.  This is John Barrowman and Daniel Boys in concert earlier this year.  Good stuff.

Monday, December 21, 2009

One more Winter Solstice Review of "The White Stag"

One more review of this story posted at Jenre's Well Read blog just in time for the Solstice.  Hers is another site with lots of thoughtful reviews of m/m romance.  Take a look.

Seasons Greetings

Wishing you the best on the Winter Solstice.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Reviews, Writing and the Victor/Victoria Principle

Yikes. A tough review of "The White Stag" from Tam at Tam's Reads :

"Joshua met Jude (a Senator's son) at a grief support group for those who lost people in 9-11. They eventually hook up but Joshua won't commit because Jude is an atheist and Joshua can't be with someone who doesn't believe in God. They remain friends though and he's invited to the fancy Christmas party. Can they work out their differences? I had issues with this book, well with Joshua I guess because I'm an atheist and I can't believe someone would refuse to be with me because I don't believe the same things they do. Arrgghh. You bigoted asshole. It's mentioned that Joshua's family is totally fundie and he left the church, and yet he treats Jude the same way his family would treat anyone not as religious as them. Also I found there was this whole scenario at the end with a white stag coming out of the forest and bowing down to Jude which was a bit too out there. Couldn't they have just worked it out without some supernatural element? Anyway, Joshua's attitude pissed me off and I didn't like him much so I didn't care if he and Jude got together, in fact I'd rather they didn't because it's going to rear it's ugly head again, guarantee it."

This is the entire text of the review of my story, but check out Tam's Blog for more reviews and commentary on the m/m world. Looks like she reads widely and has a clear grasp on the genre.

Which brings me to my reason for posting this review: Is the m/m romance genre the place for me? I think a great many of my friends marvel that a guy so drawn to dark themes is writing romantic fiction. Writing fiction has been an interesting journey for me and I am still struggling to define myself as a writer . . . or maybe not to define myself as a writer.

A couple of years ago I stumbled into the world of m/m romance. I had read a lot of fan fiction (mostly X-Files and Doctor Who slash) and even read a few chapters of an early edition of Henry Jenkins's Textual Poaching: Television Fans and Participatory Culture (which is still in print and has been available on kindle since 2007). I liked the fiction a lot, but the art was often a stunning springboard for my imagination.

(Sidebar: If you like slash art and have not been to The Theban Band, take a look. The Mulder/Krycek page is pretty fantastic, but there's a lot of great stuff there. Be sure to look in on Sam & Frodo and the gang at Hogwarts while you're there.)

Initially the idea of rewriting film and television mythology appealed to me for the obvious reasons. As a gay man, I could watch The Empire Strikes Back and simultaneously want to be Han Solo and want to be experiencing the beginnings of a flirty, sexy relationship with him (like Princess Leia). This instantaneous mental and emotional vacillation from one perspective to another was my way of dealing with a world in which one of the characters on the screen was usually the wrong gender. And of course, Science Fiction has not traditionally been filled with man-on-man romance or sex. (Go figure.)

I was fascinated to note at the time that the vast majority of the people I encountered online creating and consuming m/m slash fiction and art were women. I didn't know what to make of it, but the concept fascinated me.

After a while, my attention wandered. From online slash archives I meandered a bit, reading a lot, but eschewing traditional and m/m romance in my own writing because I knew that my own heart tends to the darker side of experience. I was drawn more to erotica, horror and alternative history. Erotica, for me, was a place to explore dark emotions and the kinds of topics that don't really provide naturally happy endings (obsession, regret, melancholy, loneliness, violence etc). We are drawn to the themes we write; we do not choose them.

I stumbled back into the romance genre by reading (believe it or not) MaryJanice Davidson's Undead series. I have always wandered occasionally into the borderland between the worlds of romance, contemporary "chick lit" (a descriptive term I use, but also deplore), and paranormal. I had been reading Laurell K. Hamilton, watching as Anita Blake transformed from a hard-ass private eye into a sex queen. When you look at these dueling vamp writers, you can really get a feel for the breadth of the paranormal romance genre.

When I came back to the m/m genre for some reason I didn't read the paranormals. I read Zahra Owens's novel Diplomacy, which I really enjoyed and which inspired me to give this type of writing a try. I also read and enjoyed Nicki Bennett and Ariel Tachna, and the charming Lisa Marie Davis. What I eventually discovered was that all of these authors write for Dreamspinner Press.

And so I embarked on an experiment. I produced a novelette called "How Could I Not" that was eventually published by Dreamspinner in an anthology called Sindustry Vol. I.

I struggled to write a story about a male prostitute that wasn't mired in pathos or grit or grime and which ended happily. Happy endings have always been a challenge for me. I tend to default to happy beginnings. And so I grappled with the material, seeking lyricism, humor and romance and walked away with reader comments like "a complex little story." I also got busted from an "A-" to a "B-" by one reviewer for allowing the characters to have sex without a condom.

There are apparently a lot of rules in this genre.

One of the interesting challenges of writing in the m/m romance genre, with its roots firmly planted in the slash fan fic world, is that there are very few male writers or readers. It is still a young genre that is very much defined by women writers (who often use male pseudonyms) and women readers, and as such, it is different than the environment one might expect in a genre whose characters are all men who love men

I imagine sometimes the idealized world that produces romantic prose and happy endings can accentuate this difference. The rules of the genre encourage safe sex, emotional commitment, the healing power of love, transformation and, of course, those buggery happy endings. I have read some reviews about my fellow Dreamspinner writers that hacked their work to bits for containing analingus or main characters who cheat on one another. I think the gay world treats these things as de rigueur, part and parcel of the gay experience. The thing that makes this genre interesting and challenging to me as a writer is what I have come to think of as the Victor/Victoria Principle. As a male writer of m/m romance, I have to find a place in my head where I can become a woman pretending to be a man writing about two men from the perspective of a woman.

Tam's review brought me to ponder all these things. In reading her response to my work, I understood that she got the character of Joshua. The fact that he is not a very tolerant Christian and is unwilling to have a relationship with someone who is not Christian is a situation I have encountered personally several times here in the American South. Religion is a big deal to people here. At work I am often asked by people I have just met, "What church do you go to?" and I often hear co-workers talking seriously about "mixed marriages" in which Christians are trying to make it work with a partner of another faith. It's startling sometimes, the assumptions people make here about religion.

I had a boyfriend who was a pretty devout, but admirably liberal Christian who was brought tears when we discussed my own lack of belief. Joshua is not a particularly broad-minded person, which is perhaps his greatest fault as a person, but one of the things that makes him an interesting character. I was somewhat mystified by Jude's intense interest in Joshua, but who am I, the lowly writer, to intercede? Perhaps Joshua's relationship with Jude will open his eyes to the possibilities the world has to offer. Or perhaps Tam is right that he's a "bigoted asshole" and the issue of religion will rear its ugly head again. Maybe Joshua will eventually get upset about something else Jude says or does or believes and storm off in a rage.

Tam was also right to say there is more to come. There will be more. Jude is a great character, though I don't know how long he will be with Joshua. To stay with Jude, Joshua will have to really change his outlook, because in Jude's world, the bowing dog and stag are really just the tip of the magical iceberg. So will Jude appear in another romance? I've noticed that his heart tends to the melancholy, but only time will tell.

One parting photo for you. This is Jude's beloved Florida prairie near where the White Stag appeared.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Ships That Pass" - Desire and Commitment in Turbulent Seas

I recently received word that one of my stories ("Ships That Pass") will be included in the upcoming anthology I Do Two! (MLR Press, 2010)

Like the first anthology in this series, this collection features stories on the theme of gay marriage. This volume will be a fundraiser for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund which advocates, educates and fights for the civil rights of the LGBT community and people living with HIV.

My story is a dark, but ultimately hopeful piece. Two gay men, both involved in long term deeply troubled relationships, meet on a lonely evening in the weeks before Christmas. They form an instant connection that grows as they discuss their own lives and relationships. By the end of the night, their attraction has grown into a tangible possibility. The sexual tension shimmers in the cold winter air. Will they leave their problems behind and find a new and more powerful bond together? Or will their evening together inspire them to reconnect with their spouses?

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Winter Solstice Treat

Happy Solstice to everyone. I have a Solstice-themed short story available in e-formats from Dreamspinner Press. The story's called "The White Stag." It's about different flavors of faith.

Here's the blurb: In the aftermath of September 11, a grief-stricken Joshua finds comfort and solace in the arms of a mysterious man who also lost someone that fateful day. Jude Balder, the son of a U.S. Senator and a well-known artist in his own right, is everything Joshua has ever wanted, except for the whole “religion thing.” Joshua is a Christian, and Jude... well, Jude is something else entirely, something abstract and scary and indefinable, something that is definitely not Christian. When Joshua receives an invitation to a Solstice/Christmas party thrown by Jude and his Senator mother a couple of years later, he's faced with a quandary: Should he worry about the dangerous allure of the unknown, or will he dare take the chance to bask in Jude’s undeniable perfection?

Click on the photo to buy the story. With one week to go until the Winter Solstice, you must be looking for something to occupy those cold, dark evenings. This story is the answer. There's nothing better this time of year than cuddling up with a cup of cocoa and a holiday romance. Happy Holidays.

Are you in love with the cover art? I think it might be the best Holiday Anthology Art I've ever seen. Artist Paul Richmond is fantastic. Check out Paul Richmond's Site to see more of his work.

Monday, December 7, 2009

That Dawg Done Stole the Show - Ramblings under the influence of the New Moon

Like hundreds of thousands of other people, I saw The Twilight Saga: New Moon over the weekend. I went with my boyfriend and a lesbian friend of ours. Admittedly we were not the target audience, our party conspicuously lacking in the teen straight girl demographic. But then, the $517 Million worldwide gross seems to indicate that some of the rest of us are ponying up our $10 to dream with the kids from Forks.

As we were leaving I stood off to one side listening to the other patrons flooding out of the packed theater. Apparently they had seen something amazing and transformative that I had missed. Many of them made comments like, You really have to see it three times to get the full impact, or It's so romantic, could you just die? These are actual quotes. I might be in trouble because I don't think I can sit through it three times and, although a couple of times during the movie, I wanted to die, very little about the film struck me as romantic. Self-indulgent, overwrought, empty, sure. Maybe even dark and melancholy, though as a writer, my own brain transports me to places far darker and more disturbing several times in an average day. But romantic? Huh-uh.

I suspect some of you might say that to compare this film to my technicolor daymares it ingenuous. I'll give you that. Review of my own work sometimes includes words like "creepy" and one reviewer admonished readers not to read my story "The D.C. Blues" because it was "actually really disturbing." Yeah, that's how I roll; pedaling my lonely Big Wheel across the scary expanses of life, like the kid in Kubrick's The Shining.

But I digress.

I read the first two Twilight books and, although I am not a fan of Stephenie Myers's writing, there was something in the novels that pulled me backwards in time to a nostalgic place of romantic yearnings. When I was fourteen or fifteen I was this quiet introverted kid with a soul that burned for earth-shattering romance. I longed for a perfect man who would love me unquestioningly. I imagined a man of incredible power and beauty, an artist with a perfect body, a movie-star's face, and a burning desire to love only me. (What boy wouldn't want that, after all?) And then I thought, Shit, what would a guy like that want with a boy like me? Therein lies the secret inner logic that fuels the Twilight series.

So I get the wish fulfillment. I get it on a visceral level. I felt it reading the first book, but I could not connect the empty, dull, drably uninteresting Edward Cullen to my dream man. Especially in the second film in the series. He is Darcy in a coma, George Emerson on Xanax. I wanted to shake him and say "Tell me something fascinating or passionate or funny; make me remember why I loved you back in the first film." And frankly when the charming Jacob (ably, ruggedly portrayed by the handsome Taylor Lautner) appeared on the screen, I kept hoping Edward would somehow be forgotten. Let the vampire catch up on his sleep; run with the big dogs, Bella.

Who could not like the idea of a bunch of half-naked pumped up Native American muscle boys wrestling in the woods? Their vibrant masculinity made Edward look all the more wasted and dead as he disrobed in the (climactic) scene in the city of the Vulturi.

I don't blame Robert Pattinson for Edward's lack of luster; I had lost interest in him by the end of the first book. Several Myers fans have assured me that Edward gets better as the books progress, that Bella starts to stand up for herself, that the plotting becomes more complex. I wonder if I will have the fortitude to pick up volume three.

For me, this movie was a mixed bag. Sure, there was a lot of eye candy and there were some solid performances. As I said before Taylor Lautner is charming. Ashley Greene is quirky and funny as Alice Cullen, one of the characters I liked better in the movies than in the books. Dakota Fanning is nearly perfect in her five minute role as the darkly powerful Jane, and the ever-fascinating Michael Sheen almost made me miss the glamor of early Anne Rice. Where was he when Neil Jordan was casting Interview with the Vampire?

Another friend of mine saw New Moon in Dallas during opening weekend. She said members of the audience literally cheered and applauded when Jacob stripped off his shirt to dab the blood from Bella's injured forehead. Well, I'm with ya girls, that dawg done stole the show.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Don't Cry For Me Alabama

Don't cry for me Alabama
For I am ordinary, unimportant
And undeserving of such attention
Unless we all are; I think we all are

So the Gators did not pull it off. Around here in Gainesville the mood is likely to be subdued. Some of my moderate Gator friends posted "you fought the good fight" comments on Facebook last night, but the die-hards have said nothing. It is Ragnarok. It is the end of an era and sadly, a heart-breaking defeat for Tebow's rabid disciples. He inspires the kind of fanaticism in his fans that his savior inspires in his own heart. The local headline screamed out DETHRONED, heralding the end of the parsimonious rule of King Tebow. Will he rise again in three days? Only the NFL draft will tell.

John16:33 (In case you wondered): "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

Jesus wept.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"Hallowell Holdings" Accepted and "Their Blood Shall Be Upon Them" Finished

I've had a pretty productive week. I heard from QueeredFiction about a Gothic story called "Hallowell Holdings" (See my August 14, 2009 post for more). The story will be included in their Queer Gothic anthology next year.

I also finished a story called "Their Blood Shall Be Upon Them" and submitted it for consideration for an upcoming anthology. This is the uniform story I talked about in my last post. It ended up being about politics and religion and violence. There's a thematic arc that comments on the power of street violence to support totalitarian regimes, and there's some crazy, dark sex in it. What happens when a man who gets turned on by dangerous men and violent sex meets the psychopathic leader of a Chrisitian paramilitary organization? (Think of a hot, muscular skinhead version of Nazi SA leader Ernst Rohm.) You'll have to wait and see.

Normally I try to link the photos in my posts to the source, but I found this ages ago and I don't know where it came from. The pathos speaks to me tonight as I wind down from my tale of murder and sex and mayhem in the streets of Washington, D.C.